A book on the role of women

Many women in leadership have few peer friendships–the simple reason being that there aren’t that many  of us who take strategic leadership roles, and cross-gender friendships are often perceived as inappropriate. What’s a woman in church leadership to do?

Some years ago, I contacted several women  I knew who were in that position and we started “meeting” over the phone for fellowship and encouragement. Each of these women are apostolic/prophetic  and each has at least a regional influence. This group has been a huge blessing to me over the years.

Not unexpectedly, the role of women in church leadership has been a frequent topic of conversation. We spent months looking at the impact of women in revivals, we’ve discussed the Scriptures that apparently limit the role of women and we’ve wondered again and again, “What can we do to help change the traditional attitude of the church towards women?” We long to see women freed to be all that God has called them to be without the stereotypical prohibitions. And we certainly don’t want to come across as militant feminists in our attitude.

Here’s what we’ve decided to do. We are writing a book. It’s not just women who will be contributing. We’ve invited several men who we know stand with us to join us in our endeavor. The book is beginning to come together. The next few posts will take a look at some of the topics we’ll be discussing.

The potential title of the book is “The Role of Women: Fifteen questions crucial to the future of the church.” What kind of questions would you like to see answered?

  • david e brown

    hi felicity. i am an ordained united methodist pastor seeking to plant house churches in the twin cities (MN). one of the things i love about our denomination is that we have recognized the gifts of women in ministry for quite a number of years now, to the point where our clergy are about 50/50 (at least in MN). and we have valued the spiritual gifts among lay women as well. so…while there are a lot of “conservatives” out there with all kinds of anxieties about women in ministry and the “organized, denominational” parts of the body of Christ, i (and most united methodists) would stand with you in allowing the Spirit of God to fulfill the prophetic word of Joel 2:28-29!

    • felicitydale

      David, thank you! I love the sound of what you’re doing.Praise God for groups like yours.

  • Becky Jensen

    Perhaps this is the reason I feel so disconnected. I know I am a leader, yet I haven’t discovered exactly how I am supposed to function. I keep “serving” and “speaking vision” into the traditional churches around me. My husband and I lead a little house church. I would loved to be a part of a support group that would help me be released into whatever I am supposed to be doing. I look forward to your wisdom Felicity.

    • felicitydale

      Becky
      I think you describe a common problem for women. God has gifted some of us as leaders, and yet there’s no way to function in those giftings within most church situations. The support group issue is an interesting one too–who knows what the Lord may do about it. Let’s pray and see what he shows us

      • Erin M

        Felicity,
        Why can’t you just be happy being a Sunday school teacher? It would have made your life a lot easier I’m sure. :)

        • felicitydale

          Made me laugh.

        • felicitydale

          Made me laugh.

  • http://www.facebook.com/keith.smith.5492 Keith Smith

    Felicity. I look forward to reading the book. My position is slightly more conservative but Is hare your concerns about the lack of real fellowship for women in Prophetic or Apostolic roles, although I am not sure that I would refer to them as leaders. My possition can be roughly summed up by a book published in the UK towards the end of your time there, Leadership is Male, by David Pawson. Arguing from a purely Biblical viewpoint, se said that while all of the ministry gifts were open to women. eldership was defined as “the HUSBAND of one wife” while the seem to be an increasing number of women in the church who say that they have wives, I am not sure if this really qualifies them. However this is a dangerous field in which to tread, you may remember the furore, which surrounded the publishing of Davids book

    • Francis Drake

      Keith, part of the problem is illustrated in your words above, which I quote here.-

      …….eldership was defined as “the HUSBAND of one wife”

      Biblical “eldership” is most certainly NOT defined as the husband of one wife. In fact eldership clearly appears in both male and female Greek forms in various parts of the NT.

      This confusion is also exacerbated by the church wrongly insisting that “elder”, and “overseer” are one in the same, when they are not.

      Elders are shown in the bible as both male and female, but an overseer can only be male, the husband of one wife. One is a person, the other an appointment. Additionally, no where do we find that an overseer’s calling has anything to do with “ministering” in church gatherings.

      Nobody can ever be appointed TO BECOME an elder, any more than someone can be appointed to become a woman. Eldership just comes with the passing of years, and/or maturity.

      As shown in Titus, when it comes to choosing overseers for the church, ONLY A MALE ELDER must be appointed, which is why Paul says to “ordain elders”…..ie. make them into overseers. Nobody in the letter of Titus or elsewhere is being ordained TO BECOME an elder. The head of every family was already a married elder, and therefore a candidate to become an overseer.

      The early church, recognised and expected that each and every older/mature believer participated in the ministry. In contrast, with our academic arrogance, we choose a specially trained man to do that job, generally solo from the front. In doing so, WE DEMOTE ALL THE OTHER ELDER SAINTS IN CHRIST’S BODY TO BECOME NON FUNCTIONING SECOND CLASS NOBODIES.

      The early church blossomed and reproduced itself continuously because ALL the elders, both male and female participated under their Holy Spirit anointing. In contrast, our leader led churches stagnate with passivity in the pews.

      Jesus had already condemned the disciples’ arguments over who should be the leaders, so why are we resurrecting it. Jesus was teaching servanthood, not leadership, a totally different concept.

    • felicitydale

      I do remember the furore over David’s book!

      My own position on eldership comes from 1 Tim 3:11 where it says “Likewise the women…” This is always taken to refer back to the previous verses on deacons, Phoebe being the cited example, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t refer back to elders too. Maybe I don’t have enough background in the Greek. As to “the husband of one wife,” there is a frequent issue in many cultures of men having more than one wife. I’m not aware of any where women have more than one husband (apart from serial polygamy here in the West with multiple divorce/re-marriages).

      However, like you, I’m much more interested in women being free to operate within the five-fold ministry giftings and I see that as being a huge breakthrough.

  • Erin M

    I look forward to your book; you’re a great writer. I’ve enjoyed your posts, Army, and Rabbit. But I think you need to have a more appealing title and that the language on the left side of the colon should be more descriptive or have some more draw. With your title, you can’t tell that it’s about women in the church until you read the last word of the subtitle. How about something humorous like: Left Behind: The Female Half of Christ’s Body. Or The Rise of Apostolic Women in the Church, or Apostolic Women: Following Jesus in a Male-Driven Church.

    • felicitydale

      Thanks for your suggestions on the title. As yet, it’s a working title only and the publishers have the final say. I agree with you–I’m not sold on it, especially the first part. There’s part of me that would like to use “The Hemiplegic Bride.” What do you think? Is it too difficult to understand? I like your last suggestion especially.

      • Erin M

        Hemiplegic Bride is probably too difficult to understand for us dumb Americans. I had never heard of the medical term before. Hemiplegic Church is probably a little better, but still the barrier word of Hemiplegic. How about: “Half-Church”? or Paralyzed Church? If we don’t involve women in the sharing of the gospel, then it’s going to take more than twice as long for the gospel to be spread to all peoples – because all men know that their wives work harder than them because women never stop working. When people ask me if my wife works, I say, “Yeah, she works harder than me at home. She homeschools our kids. I’ve got to come to work just to get a break.”

  • Erin M

    I’d like to see some stories about how strong, God-fearing, strategic church planting women get along w/ their husbands when they are the more well-known speaker, planter, or leader. And how you strong leaders deal w/ situations where you’re discriminated against by males (or women) in the church because you’re female and a leader – including some humorous quotes by the discriminators.
    Blessings to you on your new endeavor.

    • felicitydale

      Great idea!

  • Erin M.

    I think you should throw in quite a few stories about what God is clearly doing through women in India, China, etc – stories that every American Christian would recognize as
    God at work – you know, some of those radical, everyday-women who plant 60 house churches in a year. If we don’t have a problem with those stories and like them, then we’re hypocritical if we think God’s standards are different for those of us in America. Haven’t women and children been a big part of revivals in their beginning stages? Even social entrepreneurs recognize that movements that go big involve women and children.

    • felicitydale

      We already have some of this planned.

    • Valerie

      Wise words Erin!

  • Guest

    I will look forward to reading about all the answers you’ve come to realize about being a female disciple of Christ! I am hungry for this!

    • felicitydale

      Thank you. I’m encouraged to hear this will meet a need.

  • Guest

    I look forward to reading ALL that you have to say about being a female disciple. I”m hungry for this! Thank you!

  • Valerie

    Felicity, this sounds wonderful! I can’t wait to read it. I don’t really have any questions to submit, but I was wondering if you have all of the author input you need. I ask because I discovered some wonderful women writers over the last few months that I think would be great for this project. Are you familiar with Rachel Held Evans, author of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood”? And Pam Hogeweide, author of “Unladylike:Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church”?

    • felicitydale

      Valerie, thank you for your suggestions. I love the title of Pam’s book and have just downloaded it onto my Kindle. At the moment, I think we have all the contributors we need (around 15 of us), although we may go with one more woman. Who knows–maybe your comment is very timely.

      • Valerie

        That’s great Felicity! :-)

  • Mylie

    Hi Felicity,
    You mention cross-gender friendships in your post, saying they are “often perceived” as inappropriate. That might be a very relevant topic to deal with in your book. The genarations growing up now seem to have no issues with cross-gender friendships, but for many, it puts them into the path of temptations that were unneccessary. Marriages have been destroyed because of cross-gender friendships that got too close. Perhaps you could share your experiences and the experiences of others you know, in how, and whether these kind of friendships work.